What Makes the Stepmom Role So Hard?

Have you experienced hard days as a stepmom? Do you wonder why stepdads seem to have an easier time bonding with their stepchildren than stepmoms?

Not all step-relationships are the same. In our own family, the relationships I have with my stepchildren are very different than those of my husband and his stepdaughters.

When my girls began to call my husband Dad a few years into our marriage, I knew it reflected their growing relationship with their stepdad. But I was jealous of the bonds they’d formed and wondered what I was doing wrong as a stepmom.


There are countless variables that contribute to step-relationships and the blending process.

One variable that remains constant, however, is the uphill road of a stepmother.

In his book, The Smart Stepfamily, Ron Deal explains what makes the stepmom role so hard.

“Stepmothers are at an even greater disadvantage than stepfathers for a number of reasons.

First, children tend to maintain more frequent contact with their noncustodial mothers.

Second, children’s attachment to their biological mother is believed to be stronger than their attachment to their father, making the acceptance and bonding with a stepmother even more difficult.

Third, because society expects women to achieve a higher relational standard than men, stepmothers feel greater pressure to build a strong attachment with stepchildren. Despite societal changes in women’s roles throughout the world, women still bear the primary responsibility for child care, maintenance, and nurturance of children. Stepmothers are not excused from these responsibilities, and they try to fulfill society’s expectations by working hard at building a relationship–only to discover a strong loyalty to the biological mom standing in the way.”

Can you relate? Are you trying to build a bond with your stepchildren that simply isn’t possible?

When I realized the variables I was competing against as I struggled to bond with my stepchildren, I better understood where I was headed. I didn’t quit trying to grow a meaningful relationship with them, but my guilt was lifted as I quit expecting the same kind of relationship I saw between my husband and his stepdaughters.

It’s not easy to create close bonds with your stepchildren as a stepmom but it isn’t impossible either.

As I spent my birthday recently with my  husband and stepdaughter, I was reminded of how far we’ve come. Our early years were very difficult, but the blessings I enjoy now outweigh the challenges of years’ past.


Don’t give up if you’re experiencing some bumps on your stepmom journey. Expect them! But get up again and keep forging forward to find blessings in the end.

Has your stepmom journey been difficult? Can you share encouraging tips on how you’ve kept going on hard days?

Pic By Stuart Miles
























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4 replies
  1. Tabitha
    Tabitha says:

    I have 2 step daughters that left this morning after a 10 day summer visitation with us. They are 16 and 17 years old and I have been apart of their life for almost 10 years now. There always seems to be an awkward transition that takes place everytime they arrive and again when they leave. I have to honestly say – I am so glad when they are gone. After their visits, I always feel like I have my house back, my husband back, my freedom and my life back! I feel terrible having these feelings, but it is the truth. We always seem to have to go out of our way to accomodate their unnecessary demands. For example: They will not change planes and they live in Texas. So my husband has to take the day off of work and drive 7 plus hours round trip to go pick them up. Even worse, he has to be at the gate waiting for them when they get off the plane or they get very upset and cry. I have found a way to deal with their issues by just thinking that my daughter’s friends are visiting with us. I have also found a blessing in all of this… my daughter, who is 15 years old, gets along very well with her step-sisters. They are very loving and supportative with each other and for this I am very thankful.

    • Gayla Grace
      Gayla Grace says:

      Tabitha, I like how you’ve chosen to focus on the positive circumstances surrounding your stepchildren, such as the relationship your daughter has with her stepsisters and choosing to consider them as your daughter’s friends’ visiting. Sometimes we have to get creative in how we cope with stepfamily challenges. Summer visitation can be very stressful so I understand your feelings! Thanks for sharing. Gayla

  2. Piper
    Piper says:

    I got really down on myself at first (been married 2 yrs) that the older kids (boy 15, girl 18) are distant and the littlest talks about mom constanty (boy 10). I went from prayerful and full of ideas to gain a place to annoyed, passive aggressive and in need of counseling to cope w The wide range of emotions I was experiencing. I now have realized that all I can do is keep my head up and show them love but in ways in which I am not expecting something back. I have learned to serve out of love and not out of obligation… I pull back when I need to and when I realize I am taking on too much. God is faithful and in time I trust that my good intentions will pay off.

    • Gayla Grace
      Gayla Grace says:

      Thank you for your comment Piper. Yes, God is faithful and I can assure you your efforts will pay off in time. It’s wise to pull back at times and evaluate your role. Hang in there. It sounds like you’re doing a great job! Gayla

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